Tuesday, February 28, 2017

When Fact Is Fiction and TV A Reality: U2 War

War seemed to be the motif for 1982," adding that "Everywhere you looked, from the Falklands to the Middle East and South Africa, there was war. By calling the album War we're giving people a slap in the face and at the same time getting away from the cosy image a lot of people have of U2. ~Bono (War and Peace NME - 1983)

On this final day of February in 1983, U2 released its third album, War. Boy and October introduced us to the religious youth from Ireland with a few whispers of the political 80's,  War gave us the first hint of the politics that would shape this bands songs and their hearts. 

The Edge honed his signature sound on songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday and Two Hearts Beat as One, not to mention his signature cold notes on the piano. He also had one of very few opportunities to sing co-lead on the Cold War atomic song, Seconds. It was also the advent of the video age and U2 was eager to take part, freezing on horseback for New Years Day, the track first released to the world. It was a heavier sound that most were used to with U2 but it worked well with the politics of the tracks. 

Interestingly enough, the album ends with one of the most iconic U2 songs, 40. Telling us more songs were on their way in only the way expected of U2, through a Psalm.

Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bono's mother was a member of the Church of Ireland and his father was Catholic making him both unable and unwilling to choose a side in the violence. The band tried to stay away from, ironically enough, the politics of Ireland. The song's main anthem is How long must we sing this song? That is the point of the song. One of the most gut wrenching versions of this song was seen on The Rattle and Hum tour. Bono, angered by the events of a bombing in Enniskillen, sang an impassioned version of this song. The version most are familiar with is however, the Red Rocks version.

The Soldiers Girls and the atomic annihilation  inspiration for this song. So many angry comments of the times yet echo so into the future.

New Year's Day
It is NOT, I repeat NOT a song about celebrating the start of the New Year. It is in fact a song about Polish Solidarity, a worker's party that was gaining popular support in the push towards the end of The Cold War. Adam's pulsing bass lines dancing with The Edge's tight piano notes are one of the iconic moments on this album.
Trivia (U2's little known except by fanatics as myself, Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop, was a B-Side to this single. And now you know).

Like a Song...
You think Larry Mullen was on fire for Sunday Bloody Sunday, he's the entire drum line on this song. This is a song about the generation of the 80's that was tired of war and fighting and revolution. In fighting, out fighting ... when does it stop?
But I won't let others live in hell
As we divide against each other
And we fight amongst ourselves
Too set in our ways to try to rearrange
Too right to be wrong, in this rebel song

Drowning Man
This song is not political but a cry to help their own bassist who was struggling with his own demons and the least religious in the band. There are so many layers to this song both beautiful and chaotic.

The Refugee
Okay ... a bit of a departure. The refugees are moving to America ... wait a minute. 

Two Hearts Beat As One
Okay, a love song this time. Bono wrote this while on his honeymoon with his wife Alison. 
Just take a moment to appreciate Adam's bass line in this one. 

Red Light
No overt political statements here ... love, red light ... and one of the stand in back up singers stripped to her bra under the red lights of the studio. 

So many way to interpret this song. Drugs, love, god ... 

Only U2 could get away with singing David's 40th Psalm. Here is a clip from Madison Square Garden in 2015. Chills every time.

Monday, February 13, 2017

To The One I Love ... But Not Really

Oh, can't you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take
 The Police - Every Breath You Take

I am notorious for having to know the lyrics of a song. Why was it written? What is the symbolism? I love the thoughts and research that some artists put into a song. I admit I have ruined a song for some people and have to practice restraint most of the time. I apologize in advance if I am about to do it again. To me, a misplaced song in a show or movie is as bad as a character that is there for no reason. Do your research people -- or come and see me first. Here are some of the most notoriously mis-understood love songs.

Dave Matthews - Crash Into Me
Sexy love song this is not. Creepy stalker voyeur reminiscent of The Police classic Every Breath You Take it is. It seems like a love song. It delivers like a love song. I guess it is a love song--sort of??

Oh I watch you there
through the window
And I stare at you
You wear nothing but you
wear it so well
Creep. Ok, sadly, some might be okay with Dave Matthews staring at them through the window without knowing ... I would prefer to know then, I guess, all of  sudden that creep factor kind of subsides - anyway...
Matthews has jokingly stated this song was written as an alternative to getting arrested. Hey, he said it, not me. We still love you anyway, Dave.

Bruce Springsteen - Born In The USA
Very good example of why you should understand what the song is about before you use it for, I don't know,  for something like your presidential campaign. 
Ronald Reagan said of Born in the USA and Bruce Springsteen

America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about.

Sure Ronnie, messages of hope, uh huh, being a  down on your luck Vietnam Veteran blue collar worker, losing your faith and spirit in the country you were once so proud of, this song is...completely and utterly not a song of hope but of despair. This is a classic case of judging a book by its cover.

R.E.M. - The One I Love
Again, deceitful. Stipe grabs you with the seeming dedication at the beginning ... This one goes out to the one I love. But wait - listen. After he has you in the nice hug, his arms tighten with the next line ... this one goes out to the one I've left behind.  WTF? Left behind? And when you think the grip is so tight, he takes you and throws you to the ground A simple prop to occupy my time. A song about never ending love? Hardly. A song written from the point of view of someone who has had their heart ripped out and stomped on several times, possibly.

U2 - Love is Blindness
When it comes to songs, Bono can be a sneaky bugger.  99% of the songs he writes with  Edge are blanketed in religious symbolism and politics. Songs like Pride, Please, and Bullet the Blue Sky are seeped in politics and religion. Love is Blindness is no exception to this rule. You are correct in assuming that Bono is singing about love. He is singing about love of country and love of identity. He just happens to be singing it from the point of view of a car bomber:

In a parked car in a crowded street 
You see your love made complete
Love is clockworks
And cold steel
Fingers too numb to feel
Squeeze the handle
Blow out the candle
A little death without mourning
No call and no warning
Baby a dangerous idea, that almost makes sense

If there was deleted scene in Blown Away that could be created today - Tommy Lee Jones would be dancing around and singing this song. 

Faith No More - Underwater Love
Mike Patton totally and completely freaked me out with this song. Yeah, I sing along to it and people look at you in a very odd way when you do. It's upbeat, especially when he sings it live. Like he's riding on a carousel, not drowning his love.

Bubbling up to the surface
Are you getting a breath of fresh air?
Forever longing to make you mine
But I can't escape your stare...
Liquid seeps into your lungs
But your eyes look so serene

A far cry from Epic (okay there was the fish) or Falling to Pieces, Mike takes drowning his love to another love - forever longing to make you mine.

Radiohead - Creep
This is just a sad love song. You can hear the quiet sadness in the beginning that builds and builds from the anger and frustrtaion of loving someone and feeling that they are too good for you.

I'm a creep.
I'm a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?

You listen to it again and realize what's going on:
I want you to notice
When I'm not around
I wish I was special
You're so fucking special

Ok, first I was really being hard on myself. Then it's like - you know what. Screw you. You're so special but I'm still feeling hard on myself. I still love you but I'm feeling like a freak.

I don't belong here

Harsh. Who hasn't been there. Yup, we all have. Maybe not to the Thom Yorke sense, but we've all been there. (This will blow your mind: The Pretenders covering Creep: 

Motley Crue - You're All I Need 
Bassist Nikki Sixx was so ahead of the Law and Order SVU curve when he wrote this song. Supposedly "ripped from the headlines", the song seems so romantic if you're only catching the chorus You're all I need, make you only mine. Most people missed the first verse at this point:

The blade of my knife
Faced away from your heart
Those last few nights
It turned and sliced you apart
This love that I tell
Now feels lonely as hell
From this padded prison cell

Oh, prison cell, you say. This guy, similar to Mike Patton, was not going to lose his girl - ever.  This video was banned from MTV.

 And finally, one of the most misunderstood songs (my opinion) is Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Used often to mourn, look more closely, it is a very sensual love song. (See my own post, A Misguided Hallelujah). Many religious references are in the song, but they are of references to the Bibles infamous lovers. Kind David, Samson, Delilah, and Bathsheba. 

To quote Jeff Buckley himself: Whoever listens carefully to 'Hallelujah' will discover that it is a song about sex, about love, about life on earth...It's an ode to life and love. Thoughts? He truly sang the words with longing, passion, want of physical closeness.

There was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Yes, I have stayed away from songs like She Bop, Turning Japanese and Dancing With Myself - even though self love does count as love.And if I ruined ANY of those three songs for you, I make no apologies.

To me, songs are like poetry. The artist (usually) is trying to get a message or story or feeling across to the listener. Next time, listen, try and figure out what it is they are trying to say or what story they are trying to tell...especially before you dedicate it to someone you love.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Love Affair With Stuart Alan Jones

Nathan: And I'm not gonna change.
You know that, don't you?
Cos it isn't a phase.
I'm not gonna grow out of it.
I'm gonna be gay forever

On February 23, 1999 a series based on the gay culture in Manchester's Canal Street area first aired in the UK. Queer as Folk UK ran for only two seasons, giving us only ten episodes, but it remains one of the foremost important shows for gay culture.* 

The main characters Stuart Alan Jones (Aidan Gillen), long time friend and Dr. Who loving Vince Tyler (Craig Kelly), and  teenager Nathan Maloney (Charlie Hunnam) brought Canal Street  culture into the mainstream for many. To me it is a time capsule of a bygone era. Think about it, the thought of gay marriage seemed like something of a dream. Many of the stereotypes of gay culture were outed: one night stands, parties and drugs. But it also confronted the conflicting moment of finally coming out with possibly one of the best scenes ever in television, if not for how Stuart comes out, but how he also exposes his nephew for being the creepy blackmailer that he is.  

For me, it was all Stuart Alan Jones. I had loved Aidan Gillen since I saw him in Some Mother's Son, but he made Stuart the hedonistic, self-absorbed, sad, confused gay man, father, lover, and enemy who blows up people's cars. The man, who in Episode Four said he wanted to "die shagging", became almost a gay superhero in this show.

He's not perfect, although he thinks he is; he's capable of having feelings of love, but fights them all the way; and there is no denying that he is definitely as sexy as he believes he is - and beyond. Seriously, have you seen him dancing? Have you seen that smile?  

Vince is a whole ball of confusion in the series. He truly does love Stuart, not like Nathan thinks he loves Stuart, but really loves him. He does wait for him to finally face the truth, after testing him with the older Cameron.
And last - Nathan. While controversy was abound about how young Nathan was for 29 year old Stuart, I think Nathan personified a generation fighting for acceptance just as he was. Teenagers are confused to begin with. Being gay and a teenager, knowing that once you come out people will both turn on you and accept you is undeniably terrifying. But Nathan seemed to have no fear and even risked his family's relationship. His relationship with Stuart and Vince was also, at times, a bit awkward.

Eighteen years have gone by. I would love to see where this story would begin now. Where is Nathan? Whatever became of Stuart and Vince in London? What would the shag map look like now, Stuart?

*The US version, based in Pittsburgh followed the end of this series and lasted for five seasons  on Showtime.  This series tackled serious LGBT topics such as HIV/ AIDs, gay bashing, adoption, and discrimination.